Fungal assemblages in bathrooms… sounds interesting but not $38 interesting.

So having gained a reputation as the toilet guy (e.g. Slate, RedOrbit, microBEnet) I felt like I just had to write about this article.  Plus it sounds really cool.   This article is by Jennifer Fouquier (also cool) who is in Scott Kelly’s lab at UC San Diego San Diego State.  The title “Rapid assemblage of diverse environmental fungal communities on public restroom floors” sounds really intriguing.  Sadly the article is not open-access ($38 for the PDF!) which is distinctly not cool.  I had planned to overlook this and blog about the article anyway but I can’t even access it through the VPN at my University.

So instead of actually reading the article I’m just venting about paywalls and posting the abstract.  Let me know if the article is worth tracking down.

An increasing proportion of humanity lives in urban environments where they spend most of their lives indoors. Recent molecular studies have shown that bacterial assemblages in built environments (BEs) are extremely diverse, but BE fungal diversity remains poorly understood. We applied culture-independent methods based on next-generation sequencing (NGS) of the fungal internal transcribed spacer to investigate the diversity and temporal dynamics of fungi in restrooms. Swab samples were collected weekly from three different surfaces in two public restrooms (male and female) in San Diego, CA, USA, over an 8-week period. DNA amplification and culturing methods both found that the floor samples had significantly higher fungal loads than other surfaces. NGS sequencing of floor fungal assemblages identified a total of 2550 unique phylotypes (~800 per sample), less than half of which were identifiable. Of the known fungi, the majority came from environmental sources and we found little evidence of known human skin fungi. Fungal assemblages reformed rapidly in a highly consistent manner, and the variance in the species diversity among samples was low. Overall, our study contributes to a better understanding of public restroom floor fungal communities.



5 thoughts on “Fungal assemblages in bathrooms… sounds interesting but not $38 interesting.

  1. David,

    Hard to believe that UC Davis doesn’t have a subscription to Indoor Air.

    The journal is freely available (full catalog) to members of ISIAQ ($135/y and discounted attendance at Indoor Air xx and Healthy Buildings yy conferences). See

    I agree that $38 is too steep for single access to one research article. However, as argued here (, I don’t think that the current version of “pay to publish” for funding journals, as in PLoS One, works for all research communities.

    – Bill

    1. Bill,

      Thanks for the comments. It’s possible that UC Davis does have a subscription… however many of the journal accessible when physically present on campus are not accessible through the campus VPN from elsewhere. I have no idea why this is the case but I couldn’t get the article even logged in through the library.

      An article such as this is likely to have appeal far beyond ISIAQ members so the $135 per year doesn’t really help them.

      I read and quite appreciated your editorial on open-access… I think you make a lot of excellent points. However, the thing that most stands out to me is the charge laid against PLoS-One of being too large to be worth checking out for indoor air type articles. My feeling is that the days of “I subscribe to journal X in my field” are numbered regardless. A simple Google Scholar alert for “indoor air” or some such will highlight the latest research on the topic, as soon as it comes out, regardless of where it is published.

      I would have found this article by such means, regardless of where it was published. But in another venue, I could have actually read it.

  2. Glad that Elisabeth was able to find the Amazon cloud version of the article!

    I must say I really appreciate how thorough and meticulous the reviewers/editors were at Indoor Air. I feel like their expertise really improved the quality and readability of the manuscript and I really appreciate all of their work. I believe we had a more intense review process than others often get when using other scientific journals.

    Thank you Indoor Air!

    P.S. I was a graduate student at San Diego State University, not UC San Diego. Common mistake.

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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter